Police Commissioner Calls for Drug Policy Reform

Police Commissioner Calls for Drug Policy Reform
Posted by FoM on May 28, 2000 at 07:01:13 PT
By Al Giordano
Source: Lindesmith Center
The May 10th statements by Mexico City Police Commissioner Alejandro Gertz Manero could mark - if international drug policy reformers offer sufficient support and response - a watershed moment in the global quest for a better drug policy. 
Gertz Manero, in his regular column in El Universal, Mexico's largest national daily, wrote of a "third path" in anti-drug efforts, one, he says, "has worked for countries like Holland that try to end the economic pressures of drug trafficking and recognize that drug addicts are ill." Gertz Manero called for a policy "to allow the free use of drugs by addicts inside of a therapeutic project, so that those who have irredeemably fallen into this vice do not become instruments of the economic interests of crime." "The common denominator in this fight must be to end the economic interest of drug trafficking"                  Alejandro Gertz Manero since Colombian Attorney General Gustavo de Greiff came to Baltimore in 1993 and opened the hemispheric debate on legalization has a Latin American official been so well positioned to advocate for reform. It must be remembered that US officials - who had previously hailed de Greiff as an incorruptible drug war hero - turned on him and launched a vicious campaign to discredit him, raising later-disproven accusations that he "negotiated with drug cartels," and depriving de Greiff of his US visa. De Greiff survived the attack - he later became Colombian ambassador to Mexico and remains an internationally respected scholar at the Colegio de Mexico today. He continues writing and speaking courageously in favor of reform. But the official campaign against him did succeed in silencing other Latin American officials from speaking the truth. Now, Alejandro Gertz has ended the regional silence. It will be more difficult for US officials to engage in the same kind of attack campaign against Gertz Manero. Mexicans have greater access to US media and politics than Colombians. And the US drug reform movement is many sizes stronger today, allowing it to more effectively defend Gertz Manero and others from unfair attack. Yet the history of '93 must be remembered so as not to be repeated.Since December of 1997 when Alejandro Gertz Manero took the public security helm of the world's largest metropolis, major crime indexes in Mexico City are down: homicide, car theft, assault of automobile drivers, rape, violent injury, and the sum of all violent crimes combined. These indexes, prior to his tenure, had nearly doubled in the two years prior. Mexico City still has not shaken its reputation for violence and insecurity, but the improvement has been rapid and undeniable. He has also made unprecedented progress in the area of decreasing police corruption while increasing the morale and professionalism - as well as respect for human rights - of the police corps.Gertz' statements, coming at the same time as New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's political capital plummets, could provide an important contrast to Giuliani's crime policies - the Big Apple Mayor is the intellectual author of the "zero tolerance" movement - in a manner that causes the popularity of Giuliani's policies to fall with his political star. In a way, US media may find in Gertz a kind of "anti-Giuliani," a man with the proven results to back up his more intelligent and effective model of fighting crime.Gertz Manero's successes in anti-crime work have been aided greatly by the other half of Mexico City's public security team: City Prosecutor Samuel del Villar. If Gertz is the "good cop" of the team, Del Villar has been the "hard cop." Del Villar has taken much of the heat off of Gertz - allowing him to do his job with less media interruption - by going on the attack against high level political and law enforcement corruption. This one-two punch strategy is revealing for drug policy reformers and crime-fighters alike. The day-by-day reform on a policy end thrives best when an aggressive flank is opened. Movements for true change can not be passive nor always police. The drug policy movement could learn something from Del Villar, too: the necessity to bring to justice those responsible for the loss of public security. Del Villar's high-profile prosecution of the federal tourism secretary and former Mexico City mayor - the last appointed viceroy when the Federal District did not have full democratic rights in the Republic - is the first example. The second is his relentless investigation of one of the city's top TV stations (embroiled in accusations of drug money laundering and drug trafficking by leading TV personalities, as well as other non-journalistic ventures) have shaken the foundations of one-party rule in Mexico. Both crimefighters were appointed by Mexico City's first elected governor, Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, in late 1997, after his opposition party was voted in by the public.The campaign by powerful interests - the Mexican federal regime and its television news allies - to halt the progress in the nation's capital has failed entirely. The Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) candidate this year to govern the city, Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador, is so far ahead in the polls that there is underway, at present, an 11th hour effort to ban him from being a candidate based on disputes to his length of residency in the city. Nobody questions the reality that Lopez Obrador, if he remains on the ballot, will win. And he has repeatedly signaled that the team of Gertz Manero and Del Villar will remain after his July 2nd election.In a sense, both Gertz Manero and Del Villar merit international attention for their groundbreaking crimefighting successes in what may be the toughest city in the world, certainly the largest, in this arena.Gertz Manero, in his May 10th column, wrote, "it is indispensable to rescue the fundamental idea of ending the economic interest in drug trafficking, recognizing that addicts are sick and they require a controlled dose of drugs, that lessens over time, and medical assistance so they can recover.""The common denominator in this fight," said Gertz Manero, "must be to end the economic interest of drug trafficking while creating conscience in the entire community about the damages of these addictions so that the youth are protected to prevent them from falling into this evil."The best kept secret in US press coverage of Mexico is that Gertz is not alone in his view. An indication of the public support for his position can be found in the words of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) candidate for Mexico City governor, Jesús Silva Herzog, a former ambassador to the US. Silva Herzog, on an April 4th television program, Zona Abierto (or "Open Zone") publicly confronted the nation's Attorney General - of his own party - asking why the Mexican federal government was not advocating drug legalization as the solution to the violence and corruption that plagues Mexico today.Support for drug policy reform has a deep base in each of Mexico's national political parties, and in Civil Society as well. In recent months, many have emerged from the drug reform closet to voice what many Mexicans believe: drug prohibition doesn't work. The two leading candidates for the Mexican presidency, Francisco Labastida of the PRI and Vicente Fox of the National Action Party, or PAN, continue to live in the Post-De Greiff era of fear of reprisal from Washington: they preach the usual recipes of tough talk and tougher penalties in the drug war, and make frequent visits to the US to court official goodwill. Labastida recently issued a public thanks to US drug czar Barry McCaffrey, who defended the PRI candidate from an April 30th Los Angeles Times report that raised serious questions about his own narco-corruption history. (The third candidate, Cárdenas, has not addressed the legalization question publicly. But his two top public security officials, Gertz Manero and Del Villar, push forward, unrestrained, with their reforms.)Among the long list of Mexican figures who have recently spoken in favor of drug legalization are leading intellectuals like Carlos Fuentes, Jorge Castañeda, Teresa del Conde, Arnoldo Krauze and Hector Aguilar Camin. A federal senator from Fox's own PAN party, Maria del Carmen Boledo del Real, sponsored legislation to regulate the sale of drugs in place of prohibiting them. Amalia García, national president of the PRD party, has likewise signaled her openness to developing a multinational drug reform movement. Two minor party candidates for president, Porfirio Muñoz Ledo and Gilberto Rincón Gallardo, have called for legalization. The Mexican Institute for Organized Crime Studies, made up of top former and current law enforcement officials, has called for decriminalization. Even major actors, musicians and sports personalities have begun to speak in public in favor of the same.And there is more, so much more, under the surface. Senators and House members of all the political parties, law enforcers, journalists, leaders of the Catholic and other churches, human rights organizations, members of Mexico's 56 indigenous ethnicities (10 percent of the nation's population) have spoken to various degrees and volumes in favor of major reform. Beyond those who have spoken publicly, there is an army of participants in politics and civil society who admit to sharing Gertz Manero's position but fear the consequences against them if they say it out loud.Many point to the US government's persecution of de Greiff and others, and, of course, to the violent domestic persecution by the ruling regime that is so eager to please Washington on drug policy matters. Almost nobody in Mexico believes that the US government is serious about fighting drugs. There just isn't the ideological support for prohibition in Mexico that is found among the US public. Mexicans have lived the problem and seen it all: the corruption, the violence, the impunity, and how drug prohibition slows the nation's desire to emerge as a true democracy, respecting human rights and equal treatment under the law.Thus, the response from inside the United States, from Holland and other European nations, to Gertz Manero's surprising candor on the issue, will decide whether the nascent drug reform movement in Mexico surges forward, or falls back into the darkness of a silence imposed by US policy upon its neighbors to the south. It is now US drug reform movement's turn to provide the counterbalance to what will surely be - if past is prologue - a harsh and unfair response from Washington to the growing reform movement in Mexico.-- Al Giordano, Latin America Correspondent  May 12, 2000  In-Depth Resources: TLC Online Library Index: Central & South America Online Library Index: International Drug Trafficking & Control Efforts More News Articles: Mexico City Police Chief Calls For Holland-Style Drug Policy Organizations: The Narco News Bulletin Universal Drug Policy Reform Organizations Related Articles:Three-Part Solution Against Drugs - Narco News Ties a Mass Grave to Abduction and Cocaine Lab Found At Site of Mexican Mass Graves Bad To Worse Of Death
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